When you see a photograph or a travel story about Inle Lake, Myanmar it usually is, or includes, a photo like this one – a basket fisherman setting his fish traps in the setting (or rising) sun. Just the image of a hardworking, solitary man, tirelessly working to bring sustenance to his family is appealing to everyone. The fact that his toil takes place in such in a place with such a comely backdrop only adds appeal to the scene.
The only problem is most of these photos are staged. Yes, the scene is beautiful but fake, and the moment is magical, but the guys you see in most of these photographs are models working for tips. They know the shots that tourists are trying to capture and will provide some amazing feats of acrobatics to accomplish them. The sense of balance and strength required to pose is really quite remarkable and entertaining. They are good showmen, seem good-natured folk and by the time they have completed their act you feel compelled to award them a small modeling fee.
Sure, there are “real fisherman” plying Inle Lake with fish traps bringing home the catch to their family, but these modeling guys have figured out another way to make a few dollars off of the lake and that is okay with me. They are hardworking and provide an honest service. Just because the images are posed doesn’t make them any less beautiful. I was happy to fork out few of my retirement dollars just for making the adventure more fun.